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Dark Adventure Radio Theater

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward Podcast

BBC Charles Dexter Ward

Somehow a random internet search landed me upon the BBC Case of Charles Dexter Ward podcast. This is possibly one of the best adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's stories I've encountered. It's like a cross between NPR's serial, the X-Files and good ol' HPL himself. BBC Radio 4 produced this 10 episode adaptation and it is completely worth binging on. I listened to the first 5 episodes on a long drive and I found it riveting. 

It's a modern adaptation that uses the podcast format to good effect. It starts as a simple "locked room" mystery being investigated by two podcast journalists. They run a show called (wait for it...) Mystery Machine, replete with requests for funding. This show is so good, it actually had me reaching for my wallet. From there, it expands to a broader tale of madness, occultism, conspiracy, underground tunnels, murder and evil librarians.

I won't go into the details except to say it is completely updated to the 21st century which gives it a verisimilitude that makes it much creepier than most HPL adaptations. The production is top notch and you feel like you are listening to a smalltime investigative podcast recorded via iPhone; you're hearing their discoveries as they are happening with phone calls, audio clips, interviews etc. It's a format that invites you into the scene so that you really feel a part of it. Hopefully there will be a second season which continues the story.  

I love the 1930's charm of the HPLHS Dark Adventure Radio Theater adaptations, but this is a uniquely modern twist on classic Lovecraft. (And of course, both are very worthwhile.)

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(spoilers follow:)

The writers had me completely fooled with their introduction of the Mystery Machine as an old podcast. I felt like a new listener crashing in on a show they've run for years, even as I understood it was a fiction podcast. But the meta twist that surprised me even more was their call for funds — Matthew Heawood (Barnaby Kay) did such a good job of narration at the beginning of episode 4 that I didn't suspect a thing. It's incredible how the writers managed to incorporate not just incidents that affect the narrators in real time but also fourth wall-breaking events into the story. I've never seen something like this executed so successfully in a podcast.

Overall, the podcast was, as you said, riveting. It's the first one I considered and ultimately did binge-watch, because it was just so full of suspense. Nonetheless I did feel somewhat let down by the ending, or lack thereof, considering the number of loose ends the show's incredible narration gave me ample cause to hope would be tied. I was left with a hungry desire for answers that ultimately wasn't satisfied. Even so I would rate it highly for the writing (which included a lot of dry humour that I found hilarious), voice acting, and overall production quality. As a Lovecraft fan I got a little more out of it with the themes and motifs that surfaced here and there, but I think it's for everyone.

Thank you so much for recommending this podcast!

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